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House over Cave by zerozero

The reinvention of a small historic building in Sicily shows how to create a contemporary family home via inventiveness and creativity. This sustainable project combines history and technology, achieving NZEB (Near Zero Energy Building) status, whilst respecting and enhancing the original building.

Designed by zerozero Photos by Maddalena Migliore

This project is about the reinvention of a historic stone building in Sicily, which has been transformed into a small but inventive family house with potential to expand in the future.

The original building dates back to the 18th century. Entirely made out of stone, it appears at once to ‘grow’ out of the ground and be one with it, incorporating within its volume a pre-existing cave and other natural features. This was man literally sculpting and carving a home for himself and his family and protecting themselves with thick walls and small openings from the intense summer heat.

The design of the new project stems instead from the idea of ‘growing within’. New surfaces and volumes delicately but assuredly colonize the historic building protected by its stone carapace and instill new life within it. The two remain distinct but at the same time rely on each other for their continued existence, in a quasi-symbiotic relationship.

The lower level, which contains a kitchen, bathroom, living area and the children’s bedroom, is a mixture of single height and double-height spaces, defined by fare-faced concrete walls and the existing stone walls.

The insertion of a new volume at the upper level – providing a master bedroom and dressing room – has been pulled away from the original walls to create the naturally lit double height spaces below. The hull-like shape of this volume has been conceived to facilitate natural ventilation via stack-effect and therefore eliminating the need for air-conditioning.

Throughout the building, niches, concealed storage areas, movable panels, and custom-made furniture contribute to making this 50sqm house a flexible and adaptable home certainly capable of punching above its weight.

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